Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Allison Price
Horses should be fed small amounts of food several times per day. Sometimes, they will eat more than what we give them. Horses eating strange things, such as wood, is something you are likely familiar with. Horses also love to eat their pooh (or feces). Although this is an unpleasant subject, there are reasons horses do it. We will answer the question “Why do horses eat feces?” in this article.
Horses Eat Feces As Foals
Many species of animals eat their feces. Horses usually only eat their feces after they turn two-three weeks old. This is what Dr. David Ramey (DVM) states on his website.
“Eating feces helps to populate the intestines of young animals with bacteria that allows them to digest the food they eat. “
Feces eating in adult horses
Coprophagy is the scientific term for eating feces. As horses age, the need to eat feces decreases. It is not unusual to see an adult horse eat feces. There may be many reasons why this happens. You may need to have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Other reasons you can address on your own.
- Horses should not eat too much roughage. A horse’s diet should contain 80% of grasses, hays, and 20% of other roughage. Horses will consume small meals multiple times per day. Horses may eat their feces if they don’t have enough or easy access to roughage.
- Starvation: This is the same reason as the first. Horse feces contain undigested nutrients. Horses that are starving will seek out any food source to sustain their lives. When horses are starved, coprophagy is a common condition.
- Nutritional deficiencies (i.e. mineral or protein deficiency). Horses should consume 80% of their roughage and 20% must have the right mineral and proteins. Horses need water, carbohydrates and proteins. You can test the hay to make sure it contains the correct nutrients. You can discuss with your veterinarian a feed program to ensure that the horse has all of these nutrients. Senior horses may require different nutrients. This is particularly true if they have difficulty eating rough forage due to their worn-down teeth.
- Intestinal parasites can make it difficult for your horse to absorb the nutrients they eat. This is known as coprophagy, which can be caused by nutritional deficiencies.
- Stereotypic behavior: Horses who have been exposed to Coprophagy over a prolonged period of time may begin to eat their own feces. If all of the above are excluded, this isn’t a problem. A comprehensive parasite program must be in place.
Horses eating Feces
Horses eating feces are not usually dangerous. If there isn’t a proper parasite and fly control system in place, dangers can arise. Horses don’t get parasites by eating manure. They do it indirectly. Dr. Davey Ramey, DVM, explains it this way:
Although horse manure is harmless and, in some cases, delicious, it is not a way to transmit internal parasites. Horses don’t get parasites by consuming manure. People who have pastured horses insist that manure be spread in their fields. This increases the risk of parasite transmission as the horse’s eggs are spread around the grass. A few drops of manure can be harmless. “